Colorado Springs, Colorado
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Custom guitars
Owner Andrew Scott believes he may have crafted the future of guitaring: the Mindbender.
"Basically, you play it by bending in the strings instead of going up and down a fretboard," says Scott, who has applied for a patent on his innovative, new guitar.
The Mindbender can be played by someone at about any skill level, he says. "It's extremely intuitive to play. Everybody who has tried it out does something totally different with it."
The Mindbender, which he has worked on for years to perfect, is just one example of Scott's creative spirit. At Blindworm, he creates unique, high-end, custom guitars with equally unusual names: The Mighty Kraken, The Larkspur Rose, Space Nacho.
The guitars can take months -- even a year -- to make. The simpler models, Scott says, start at about $3,500; others can sell for up to $10,000. "We've had a handful appraised at around 25 grand." And while they're stunning works of art, they're "absolutely" made to play, he says.
The store also features the work of a handful of other local guitar makers and is also a full-service repair facility, not just for guitars but "anything from violins to keyboards," Scott says.
Scott, who was "always sort of an artsy, musician-type kid," grew up in Oklahoma. He moved to Colorado Springs after college with plans to open a restaurant with a friend. Once here, though, he shifted direction. "I thought, 'Gosh, there's so much art and music out here.' I had done a lot of woodworking, so I opened a woodworking shop instead."
Scott, who plays a multitude of instruments, also started making his own instruments -- "banjos, violins, cellos, anything I thought could make a cool something to play on," he says. "The next thing you know, I had people ordering stuff." As those orders grew, Blindworm was born.
People typically come in with a wish list of what they want to see in their guitar; Scott, for example, has been working on a Star Trek-themed guitar for a Trekkie. Other times, he is given free rein to see what he can come up with.
"We do very little advertising," Scott says; most of his business is word of mouth. He is working to update his website, though, and is planning a separate website devoted to the Mindbender.
Challenges: "Colorado has very little support for guitar manufacturing," Scott says. "There are no stores in Colorado that focus on local-built stuff. That's why we opened the store to try to bring attention to all the great builders in the area. If you go to the East or West coast, there's a ton of it. . . . So that's been a big challenge: How do you get them [the guitars] out there? It's tough to market a guitar without somebody being able to feel it, because everybody builds stuff differently, so it's hard for people on the other side of the country to say, I'll buy one of these."
Opportunities: The Mindbender, which can be made in a fraction of the time it takes to create one of Scott's custom guitars, could be key to Blindworm's future. "The custom guitars, they're really rewarding and they're fun, and being an artist I really enjoy doing it, but you're limited by how much you can really make off of them," he says. So a lot of our focus is how to make some really innovative product that we can expand on and make a lot of faster."
While Scott acknowledges licensing the Mindbender system could be a possibility, "We're going to build them ourselves for a while. We've spent a ton of time getting the manufacturing process down to make it relatively easy and fast for us to produce them."
Needs: "We need more space, that's a big one," Scott says. "Trying to do all this and manufacture all the new products has been a little tough to navigate around."
More time would be welcomed, too. Between running the shop and crafting the guitars and developing the new technology and doing repairs, Scott says, "We do so many different things." Add raising a family to that list: Scott and his wife, Kelly, who works at the shop, also have three children at home. (Another is off at college.)
At least it's a short commute; the family lives above the shop. That commute is made even quicker by an unusual addition. "We actually have a fireman's pole so we can just slide down into work," Scott says.